« EelmineJätka »
while they were on shore, and a powerful current carrying us rapidly away. One of them was our pilot; and, without a chart or any knowledge of the coasts, we had to blunder our way short-handed among the rocks and reefs and innumerable islands which surround the rocky coasts of Waigiou. Our little vessel was five times on the rocks in the space of twenty-four hours, and a little more wind or sea would in several cases have caused our destruction. On at length reaching our resting-place on the south coast of Waigiou, I immediately sent a native boat after my lost sailors, which, however, returned in a week without them, owing to bad weather. Again they were induced to make the attempt, and this time returned with them in a very weak and emaciated condition, as they had lived a month on a mere sand-bank, about a mile in diameter, subsisting on shell-fish and the succulent shoots of a wild plant.
I now devoted myself to an investigation of the natural history of Waigiou, having great expectations raised by Lesson's account, who says that he purchased the three true Paradiseas, as well as P. magnifica and P. sexsetacea, with Epimachus magnus and Sericulus aureus, in the island, and also mentions several rare Psittaci as probably found there. I soon ascertained, however, from the universal testimony of the inhabitants, afterwards confirmed by my own observation, that none of these species exist on the island, except P. rubra, which is the sole representative of the two families, Paradiseidæ and Epimachidæ, and is strictly limited to this one spot.
With more than the usual amount of difficulties, privations, and hunger, I succeeded in obtaining a good series of this beautiful and extraordinary bird ; and three months' assiduous collecting produced no other species at all worthy of attention. The parrots and pigeons were all of known species; and there was really nothing in the island to render it worth visiting by a naturalist, except the P. rubra, which can be obtained nowhere else.
Our two expeditions to two almost unknown Papuan islands have thus added but one species to the Paradiseas which I had before obtained from Aru and Dorey. These voyages occupied us nearly a year ; for we parted company in Amboyna in February, and met again at Ternate in November, and it was not till the following January that we were either of able to start again on a fresh voyage.
At Waigiou I learned that the birds of paradise all came from three places on the north coast, between Salwatty and Dorey-Sorong, Maas, and Amberbaki. The latter I had tried unsuccessfully from Dorey ; at Maas, the natives who procured the birds were said to live three days' journey in the interior, and to be cannibals; but at Sorong, which was near Salwatty, they were only about a day from the coast, and were less dangerous to visit. At Mysol, Mr. Allen had received somewhat similar information; and we therefore resolved that he should make another attempt at Sorong, where we were assured all the sorts could be obtained. The whole of that country being under the jurisdiction of the Sultan of Tidore, I obtained, through the Dutch resident at Ternate, a Tidore lieutenant and two soldiers to accompany Mr. Allen as a protection, and to facilitate his operations in getting men and visiting the interior.
Notwithstanding these precautions, Mr. Allen met with difficulties in this voyage which we had not encountered before. To understand these, it is necessary to consider that the birds of paradise are an article of commerce, and are the monopoly of the chiefs of the coast villages, who obtain them at a low rate from the mountaineers, and sell them to the Bugis traders. A portion of the skins is also paid every year as tribute to the Sultan of Tidore. The natives are therefore very jealous of a stranger, especially a European, interfering in their trade, and above all of his going into the interior to deal with the mountaineers themselves. They, of course, think he will raise the prices in the interior, and lessen the demand on the coast, greatly to their disadvantage; they also think their tribute will be raised if a European takes back a quantity of the rare sorts ; and they have, besides, a vague and very natural dread of some ulterior object in a white man's coming at so much trouble and expense to their country only to get birds of paradise, of which they know he can buy plenty at Ternate, Macassar, or Singapore.
It thus happened that when Mr. Allen arrived at Sorong and explained his intentions of going to seek birds of paradise in the interior, innumerable objections were raised. He was told it was three or four days' journey over swamps and mountains; that the mountaineers were savages and cannibals, who would certainly kill him ; and, lastly, that not a man in the village could be found who dare go with him. After some days spent in these discussions, as he still persisted in making the attempt, and showed them his authority from the Sultan of Tidore to go where he pleased and receive every assistance, they at length provided him with a boat to go the first part of the journey up a river ; at the same time, however, they sent private orders to the interior villages to refuse to sell any provisions, so as to compel him to return. On arriving at the village where they were to leave the river and strike inland, the coast people returned, leaving Mr. Allen to get on as he could. Here he called on the Tidore lieutenant to assist him, and procure men as guides and to carry his baggage to the villages of the mountaineers. This, however, was not so easily done ; a quarrel took place, and the natives, refusing to obey the somewhat harsh orders of the lieutenant, got out their knives and spears to attack him and his soldiers, and Mr. Allen himself was obliged to interfere to protect those who had come to guard him. The respect due to a white man and the timely distribution of a few presents prevailed ; and on showing the knives, hatchets, and beads he was willing to give to those who accompanied him, peace was restored, and the next day, travelling over a frightfully rugged country, they reached the villages of the mountaineers. Here Mr. Allen remained a month, without any interpreter through whom he could understand a word or communicate a want. However, by signs and presents and a pretty liberal barter, he got on very well, some of them accompanying him every
day in the forest to shoot and receiving a small present when he was successful.
In the grand matter of the paradise birds, however, little was done. Only one additional species was found, the Seleucides alba (or twelvewired bird of paradise), of which he had already obtained a specimen on the island of Salwatty on his way to Sorong ; so that at this muchvaunted place in the mountains, and among the bird-catching natives, nothing fresh was obtained. The P. magnifica, they said, was found there, but was rare; the Sericulus aureus also rare ; Epimachus magnus, Astrapia nigra, Parotia sexsetacea, and Lophorina superba not found there, but only much further in the interior, as well as the lovely little lory, Charmosyna papuana. Moreover, neither at Sorong nor at Salwatty could he obtain a single native skin of the rarer species.
Thus ended my search after these beautiful birds. Five voyages to different parts of the district they inhabit, each occupying in its preparation and execution the larger part of a year, have produced me only five species out of the thirteen known to exist in New Guinea. The kinds obtained are those that inhabit the districts near the coasts of New Guinea and its islands, the remainder seeming to be strictly confined to the central mountain ranges of the northern peninsula; and our researches at Dorey and Amberbaki, near one end of this peninsula, and at Salwatty and Sorong, near the other, enable me to decide with some certainty on the native country of these rare and lovely birds, good specimens of which have never yet been seen in Europe. It must be considered as somewhat extraordinary that during five years' residence and travel in Celebes, the Moluccas, and New Guinea I should never have been able to purchase skins of half the species which Lesson, forty years ago, obtained during a few weeks in the same countries. I believe that all, except the common species of commerce, are now much more difficult to obtain than they were even twenty years ago ; and I impute it principally to their having been sought after by the Dutch officials through the Sultan of Tidore. The chiefs of the annual expeditions to collect tribute have had orders to get all the rare sorts of paradise birds ; and as they pay little or nothing for them (it being sufficient to say they are for the Sultan), the head men of the coast villages would for the future refuse to purchase them from the mountaineers, and confine themselves instead to the commoner species, which are less sought after by amateurs, but are to them a profitable merchandise. The same causes frequently lead the inhabitants of uncivilized countries to conceal any minerals or other natural products with which they may become acquainted, from the fear of being obliged to pay increased tribute, or of bringing upon themselves a new and oppressive labour.
I have given this short sketch of my search after the birds of paradise, barely touching on the many difficulties and dangers I experienced, because I fear that the somewhat scanty results of my exertions may have led to the opinion that they failed for want of judgment or perse
I trust, however, that the mere enumeration of my voyages will show that patience and perseverance were not altogether wanting ; but I must plead guilty to having been misled, first by Lesson and then by all the native traders, it never having occurred to me (and I think it could not have occurred to any one), that in scarcely a single instance would the birds be found to inhabit the districts in which they are most frequently to be purchased. Yet such is the case ; for neither at Dorey, nor at Salwatty, nor Waigiou, nor Mysol are any of the rarer species to be found alive. Not only this, but even at Sorong, where the Waigiou chiefs go every year and purchase all kinds of birds of paradise, it has turned out that most of the specimens are brought from the central mountain ranges by the natives, and reach the shore in places where it is not safe for trading praus to go, owing to the want of anchorage on an exposed rocky coast.
Nature seems to have taken every precaution that these, her choicest treasures, may not lose value by being too easily obtained. First, we find an open, harbourless, inhospitable coast, exposed to the full swell of the Pacific Ocean ; next, a rugged and mountainous country, covered with dense forests, offering in its swamps and precipices and serrated ridges an almost impassable barrier to the central regions; and lastly, a race of the most savage and ruthless character, in the very lowest stage of civilization. In such a country and among such a people are found these wonderful productions of nature. In those trackless wilds do they display that exquisite beauty and that marvellous development of plumage, calculated to excite admiration and astonishment among the most civilized and most intellectual races of men. A feather is itself a wonderful and a beautiful thing. A bird clothed with feathers is almost necessarily a beautiful creature. How much, then, must we wonder at and admire the modification of simple feathers into the rigid, polished, wavy ribbons which adorn Paradisea rubra, the mass of airy plumes on P.apoda, the tufts and wires of Seleucides alba, or the golden buds borne upon airy stems that spring from the tail of Cicinnurus regius ; while gems and polished metals can alone compare with the tints that adorn the breast of Parotia sexsetacea and Astrapia nigra, and the immensely developed shoulder-plumes of Epimachus magnus.
My next work was to describe five new birds from New Guinea obtained by my assistant, Mr. Allen, during his last visit there, and also seven new species obtained during his visit to the north of Gilolo and Morty Island. I also described three new species of the beautiful genus Pitta, commonly called ground-thrushes, but more nearly allied to the South American ant-thrushes (Formicariidae), or perhaps to the Australian lyre-birds. I also began a series of papers dealing with the birds of certain islands or groups of islands for the purpose of elucidating the geographical distribution of animals in the archipelago. The first of these was a list of the birds from the Sula or Xulla Islands, situated between Celebes and the Moluccas, but by their position seeming to belong more to the latter. I believe that not a single species
. of bird was known from these small islands, and I should probably not have thought them worth visiting had I not been assured by native traders that a very pretty little parrot was found there and nowhere else. I therefore sent Mr. Allen there for two months, and he obtained a small but very interesting collection, consisting of forty-eight species of birds, of which seven were entirely new, including the little parrakeet which I named Loriculus sclateri, and which is one of the most beautiful of the genus. But the most interesting feature of the collection was that it proved indisputably that these islands, though nearer to Bouru and the Batchian group than to Celebes, really formed outlying portions of the latter island, since no less than twenty of the species were found also in Celebes and only ten in the Moluccas, while of the new species five were closely allied to Celebesian types, while only two were nearest to Molluccan species. This very curious and interesting result has led other naturalists to visit these islands as well as all the other small islands which cluster around the strangely formed large island. The result has been that considerable numbers of new species have been discovered, while the intimate connection of these islands with Celebes, so clearly shown by this first small collection, has been powerfully enforced.
During the succeeding five years I continued the study of my collections, writing many papers, of which more than a dozen related to birds, some being of considerable length and involving months of continuous study. But I also wrote several on physical and zoological geography, six on various questions of anthropology, and five or six on special applications of the theory of natural selection. I also began working at my insect collections, on which I wrote four rather elaborate papers. As several of these papers discussed matters of considerable interest and novelty, I will here give a brief